Victims' rights - by country

Bulgaria

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Bulgaria

How can I be involved in the trial?

What are my rights as a witness?

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

Can I receive legal aid?

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

How can I claim damages from the offender or receive compensation from the state?

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

More information

How can I be involved in the trial?

When your case goes to court you will receive information about the first court hearing and you have to decide how you are going to participate in the trial. You have three options: to participate as a victim without a specific legal status in the proceedings, as a civil claimant (1) and/or as an additional private prosecutor (2).

If you choose to participate only as a victim, you:

  • will be informed about the date of the court sessions;
  • can get acquainted with the case materials and take notes;
  • can be present at the court hearing unless it is not public ( i.e. takes place behind closed doors and only in the presence of a limited number of persons), in which case you will need permission from the judge.

If you decide to participate as an additional private prosecutor (2) and/or civil claimant (1) you will have a number of additional rights:

  • to have a lawyer present (not obligatorily), generally at your own expense, unless you prove you cannot pay for his/her services;
  • to ask for the exclusion of any judge, the prosecutor, the lawyers or the registrar, the experts and the interpreters, if you have justified reasons to doubt their impartiality;
  • to present material evidence, call witnesses, request expert opinions, etc.;
  • to be present at inspections performed by the court;
  • to request the performance of new investigative actions;
  • to make statements, requests, remarks and objections, examine and cross-examine the defendant and the witnesses and object against the interview of specific witnesses;
  • to request the court to order the offender to cover your expenses if the case ends with a conviction;
  • to appeal against the decisions of the court, including the verdict and the penalty.

In case you wish to become additional private prosecutor and/or civil claimant, you need to notify the court. You can do this in writing (no specific form is necessary) or orally during the court session. In any case, you need to notify the court before the presentation of evidence. After that you can no longer become a civil claimant or additional private prosecutor.

In some cases you may not be allowed to participate in the trial as additional private prosecutor (2) or civil claimant (1). The law does not allow for such participation in some specific types of accelerated proceedings (e.g. when the offender has been caught at the scene of the crime). The court may also decide to reject your participation, even if it is not excluded by the law. In such case you can appeal against that decision before the higher court. If you are rejected as a civil claimant, you can still file your claim at the civil court.

There are some less serious crimes (e.g. insult, libel, minor bodily injury, caused by a relative, etc.), which are prosecuted by you as a victim and not by the public prosecutor. If you are a victim of such a crime you have to submit a complaint directly to the court. By doing this you will become a private prosecutor (3). As a private prosecutor you will have the same scope of rights as the additional private prosecutor and the civil claimant.

What are my rights as a witness?

If you have also been summoned as a witness, you are obliged to appear before the court and stay at its disposal until needed. You also have specific rights related to your testimony:

  • to use written notes;
  • to be assisted by an interpreter free of charge, if needed;
  • to be accompanied by a lawyer, generally at your own expense;
  • to be interviewed at your location if you cannot appear at the court due to illness or disability;
  • to be interviewed at your location through a videoconference or a telephone conference, if you are outside Bulgaria;
  • not to reply to questions which may imply that you, your relatives, siblings, spouse or actual co-habitant may have committed a crime;
  • to request the revocation of acts affecting your rights; and
  • to be reimbursed for the working day(s) off and the expenses incurred.

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

If you are under 18 years of age, you can:

  • be interviewed in a suitable environment in the presence of a person of teaching background or a psychologist and your parents or guardians;
  • be interviewed via videoconference, i.e. without direct contact with the offender, even if you reside in Bulgaria;
  • be interviewed in a non-public hearing (i.e. taking place behind closed doors and only in the presence of a limited number of persons); after you give your testimony you will be taken out of the courtroom unless the court rules otherwise;
  • always receive legal aid free of charge in all proceedings, affecting your rights and interests.

If your interests are in conflict with those of your parent, guardian or custodian, the court will appoint a lawyer free of charge to represent you.

Can I receive legal aid?

You can request a lawyer free of charge if you participate in the trial as an additional private prosecutor (2), private prosecutor (3) and/or civil claimant (1). You need to present evidence to the court that you are unable to pay the fees for a lawyer. The court will examine the evidence and assign a lawyer for you.

You also have the right to free legal aid if you are a victim (or heir/relative of a victim) of certain crimes (4). You have to make a request to the court and legal aid is given to you free of charge, if you present evidence that you cannot pay for it. If possible, the bar council will nominate the lawyer you have specified.

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

You can ask the court to ban the offender from approaching you. The court’s decision cannot be appealed. The ban lasts until the end of criminal proceedings, but you can request its lifting at any time.

If you are a witness and your evidence might endanger you or your relatives, you can request the prosecutor or the court to place you under temporary witness protection measures:

  • Personal physical protection by the police for you and/or your parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren, siblings, spouse or persons in particularly close relations with you;
  • Keeping your identity a secret by replacing your personal data with an identification number and allowing direct access to you only to the police, the prosecutor and the court.

If you are a witness, an additional private prosecutor (2) or civil claimant (1) in proceedings for crimes against the person, arson, explosion, drug-related crimes, organized crime, etc. and you cannot be protected with the above measures, you can also enter a special protection programme (5).

If you are a victim of a sexual offence, you can have your trial in a non-public hearing (i.e. taking place behind closed doors and only in the presence of a limited number of persons).

How can I claim damages from the offender or receive compensation from the State?

You can claim damages before the criminal court (as part of the criminal proceedings) or the civil court (in separate proceedings) within five years of the commission of the crime or the discovery of the perpetrator.

You are free to file a civil claim to the civil court whenever you suffer damages. It does not matter whether the incident was a crime, whether the crime was reported or whether there was any criminal procedure at all.

If you choose the criminal court, you have to present your claim before evidence starts being presented at the first instance court. You cannot bring a civil claim to the criminal court if you have already claimed before a civil court.

The criminal court may decide not to examine your claim if it is too complicated and its examination would delay the criminal proceedings. In this case you can file your claim against the alleged offender before the civil court.

The compensation from the offender covers all damages caused by the crime, without minimum or maximum levels or a scale.

You might be also entitled to compensation from the State if you are a victim (or heir/relative of a victim) of certain crimes (4). Please consult the factsheet on compensation to victims of crime in Bulgaria (available in Bulgarian) of the European Judicial Network.

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

Bulgarian legislation does not provide for mediation in any part of the criminal proceedings.

However, your case may end up with an ‘agreement’ between the prosecutor and the defendant’s lawyer, approved by court. During the trial the agreement has to be prepared before the end of the judicial inquiry. Agreement can be reached in proceedings for many types of crime, except for some serious crimes against the person, such as murder and sexual crimes. It states whether a crime has been committed and what the penalty should be. The court will notify you if an agreement has been approved.

An agreement cannot be concluded if your property damages from the crime have not been covered or secured. When approved by court, the agreement is equal to a sentence having entered into force and can thus significantly decrease the length of the proceedings.

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

If you are a foreigner who has suffered from a crime in Bulgaria, you have all the rights explained above. Specifically, you can:

  • use the assistance of an interpreter free of charge, if you do not speak Bulgarian;
  • be summoned to the proceedings in your own country;
  • be interviewed outside Bulgaria through a videoconference or a telephone conference;
  • submit to authorities documents in a foreign language, accompanied by a duly certified Bulgarian translation;
  • consult a brochure on victims’ rights available in English, German and French;
  • benefit from free legal aid, if you participate in the trial as an additional private prosecutor (2), private prosecutor (3) and/or civil claimant (1) or if you are a victim of certain crimes (4); you need to make a request to the court and present evidence that you cannot pay for it;
  • be issued a long term residence permit, if you are a victim of human trafficking.
  • Criminal Procedure Code (Наказателно-процесуален кодекс) – in Bulgarian
  • Law on Assistance and Compensation to Victims of Crime (Закон за подпомагане и финансова компенсация на пострадали от престъпления) – in Bulgarian and English
  • Law on Legal Aid (Закон за правната помощ) – in Bulgarian
  • Law on Protection of Persons in Criminal Procedure (Закон за защита на лица, застрашени във връзка с наказателно производство) – in Bulgarian

More information:

  • Criminal Procedure Code (Наказателно-процесуален кодекс) – in Bulgarian
  • Law on Assistance and Compensation to Victims of Crime (Закон за подпомагане и финансова компенсация на пострадали от престъпления) – in Bulgarian and English
  • Law on Legal Aid (Закон за правната помощ) – in Bulgarian

Law on Protection of Persons in Criminal Procedure (Закон за защита на лица, застрашени във връзка с наказателно производство) – in Bulgarian

Notes:

1. Civil claimant
If you want to claim compensation for damages from the offender as part of the criminal proceedings you have to become a civil claimant. To do so you have to submit a request to the court orally or in writing. You need to include information about yourself, the offender or another person you are claiming damages from, the case, the crime and the nature and amount of your damage. If you are unable to protect your rights and legal interests due to young age or physical or psychological disabilities, the prosecutor can submit the civil claim for you. When you become a civil claimant you will obtain a number of rights to help you actively participate in the proceedings.

2. Additional private prosecutor
If you want to press charges in court along with the public prosecutor you have to become an additional private prosecutor. To do so you have to submit a request to the court before the presentation of evidence starts. Your request can be oral or written and you have to include information about yourself and about the circumstances of the crime. You do not have to pay any state fee and the court can sentence the offender to cover the costs you have incurred. When you become an additional private prosecutor you will obtain a number of rights to help you actively participate in the proceedings, including the right to continue the prosecution even if the public prosecutor withdraws charges.

3. Private prosecutor
For a limited number of crimes (e.g. insult, libel, minor bodily injury, caused by a relative, etc.), only you, as a victim or an heir of a victim of such a crime, can initiate proceedings by submitting a complaint directly to the court. The proceedings will begin directly in court and no preliminary investigation will take place. The complaint needs to be submitted in writing and contain relevant information about you, the person you are complaining about and the incident. You have to sign it and submit it within six months of the day on which you learned about the crime. You need to pay a state fee of 12 BG Leva (6 Euro) and attach the receipt to your complaint. You are also obliged to pay a certain amount specified by the court, which will be used to cover the expenses for the proceedings. You may also claim compensation from the offender for the damages suffered. You will have to prove all aspects of the crime because no public prosecutor will participate in the trial. If necessary, you can seek the assistance of the police in collecting data.

4. Crimes entitling victims to additional rights
According to Bulgarian legislation, victims of certain types of crime have additional rights. These crimes are: terrorism, murder, premeditated grave bodily injury, sexual violence and rape that led to serious damage to health, human trafficking, any crime ordered or committed by an organised criminal group or any other serious intentional crime where the immediate consequences are death or serious bodily injury.

5. Special protection programme
The special protection programme includes the following measures:
· personal physical guard;
· property guard;
· temporary safe accommodation;
· change of residence, place of work or study, or transfer to another place of imprisonment;
· in exceptional circumstances only: change of identity.
It may be accompanied by a temporary ban on disclosing your personal data and by social, medical, psychological, legal or financial assistance.
The programme can also apply to your parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren, siblings, spouse or persons you are in particularly close relations with.
Last update: 17/12/2018

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

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